The Lone Samurai
Pros: Excellent Mids
Excellent BA Bass
Great stock cable
Beautiful IEMs/great build quality
Better highs than expected
Cons: A tad sharpness/sibilance
Highs don’t quite match the Multiverse Mentor
Imaging/soundstage doesn’t quite equal the Multiverse Mentor
Price of course, but kind of a moot point at this level
Up for review today is the Noble Audio Ronin. Mine was purchased with my own money from Musicteck (shop.musicteck.com) for a discounted price in exchange for a review. As always that in no way, shape, or form impacts how I will review these IEMs (and yet Musicteck keeps sending me IEMs for review haha). The Ronin is a hybrid IEM with four Sonion EST drivers for high and super-high frequencies, four Knowles BA drivers for mid-low and mid-range frequencies, and four Sonion BA drivers for sub-bass and bass frequencies. There’s no DD for the bass if that’s something you’re looking for. The current price everywhere is $3,900. If you’d like to get a Ronin, you can grab one from Musicteck HERE.
Awesome. No really, the packaging that comes with the Ronin is excellent and very reminiscent of the Kublai Khan. You get a gorgeous outer box, a nice inner box with cool ronin art, a heavy-duty pelican-style carrying case to ensure your Ronin will survive the nuke so you can listen to them in your bomb shelter once the radiation dies down, a soft carrying case, a LEATHER carrying case, about 100 ear tips (kidding, it’s closer to 15-20), a sticker, a couple of Noble rubber bands, and a really random metal credit card type thing that I don’t really get, but it looks cool. That’s a LOT of high-quality kit from an IEM – it definitely has the Multiverse Mentor beats and comes close to the Elysium and Mezzo LE for accessories. I have no clue why I need 3 cases and a box, but whatever. I am using the Spinfit W1 with my Ronin because I have had excellent results with them, and I have no desire to use anything else – you can use whatever you want. I have no reason to give this anything less than 10 points. As always, I’m using my Spinfit W1 tips since they’re the best I’ve found (You can buy them here if you want a set: https://amzn.to/3WDrNIk.)
Finally, a decent stock cable. Sure, you can probably get an aftermarket cable that improves the sound even more for half the cost of the Ronin, but that’s on you – I have no desire to do that and can’t recommend anything beyond the excellent stock cable (ask The Watercooler for recommendation there.) The included Eletech cable is flexible (unlike the Plussound cables), absolutely gorgeous with silver and blue, and black accents, mostly non-microphonic and provides good sound quality. The only stock cable I’ve found that competes with this at all is the Mezzo LE stock cable. The Eletech cable also matches the theme of the IEM, something that rarely happens, even on the Mezzo. It’s a 10/10 here, though I’d love to see a tiny Katana on the cable connectors or IEM itself.
Build Quality/Comfort (8/10):
The build quality is honestly phenomenal. The IEM looks like a solid single piece of resin and only upon looking more closely can you see where the faceplate is attached to the body. Both pieces are made from the same material, which is a resin with blue tinsel and a grayish silver running throughout. Despite having a 2-piece design (like almost every IEM), the Ronin is sealed with a clearcoat keeping the two pieces together and creating what is simply one of the most gorgeous IEMs I’ve ever seen. This competes with the Mezzo LE’s amazing build, and it beats the Mentor Jade I had overall. Top-notch.
Comfort…is good for me, but the fit isn’t really to my taste. Some people don’t mind the comfort here, some people say it’s a downside, you’ll just have to try them for yourself. The overall comfort is really good and far better than the Plussound Allegro I had recently. The Ronin is pretty huge, they will stick out of your ears unless you’re part elephant. They are also a bit heavy, so they don’t stay in place as well as the Custom Art Fibae 5 or Final A5000, both of which fit in my ears like a glove. Now, that’s really a problem you’ll find with most TOTL IEMs these days, they’re all a bit heavy and large. If they’re not heavy, they feel cheap and struggle to justify their price. So, it’s a balancing act and the Ronin are still good enough I’ve worn them for 8 hours at a time with no pain or anything like that. A couple of points off for the size and weight, but a solid 8/10 still.
I am comparing these to the Mentor in my Squig.link below. The Ronin shows slightly less sub-bass and mid-bass, but I can’t really tell when listening. In the mids, the Ronin appears to be a little more mids-forward, but in practice, you can hardly tell and both are mids-forward IEMs.I will say that the Mentor’s highs are not only more present on the frequency Response Graph but also when listening to them. The Ronin is definitely a little more muted, which is admittedly my preference.
That said, I no longer have the Mentor…because I don’t have the finances to own both of them at the same time. So, I can compare the two based off memory, but that’s about it. The only other IEM I have that competes with these is my Elysium BASS and to a lesser extent, the Fibae 5, but I can tell you right now that the Fibae 5 doesn’t compete with the Ronin – it’s like the diet coke of the Ronin, but for almost $3k less. So get one of those if you don’t have the budget for these. I am powering these off of my HiBy RS8 at around 35/100 volume on medium gain with the A/B amp. I am using Tidal Hi-FI with the stock cable and Spinfit W1s with MQA enabled.
I’m starting off with the Mid-bass/Sub-bass test I’m using David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue).” While these may not have the ever-requested DD bass, they still have really phenomenal bass. The mid-bass impact from the drums at the into is really good and the sub-bass, while not the best I’ve heard, has excellent rumble with very good quality. There’s none of the bloat or unwanted reverb that the Aroma Thunder, and to an extent, the Mentor, has. The wind-up to the sub-bass can barely be heard though, and that’s a detail I really look for on this song. The bass doesn’t overwhelm the mids, which is expected on an IEM with excellent mids. Overall, the bass is great, but not #1, earning these a 9/10.
Up next is Demon Hunter’s “I Am A Stone,” which I use to test whether the bass is too strong and overwhelms the mids as that is just as important as how strong/good the bass is. These are still a mids-forward IEM, so it’s not surprising that while the bass is still quite strong, it doesn’t overwhelm the mids here. This is a 10/10 for me on this song. Great bass presentation and quantity without drowning the mids.
Weaving The Fate’s “The Fall” is my test song for clean/dirty guitars and vocals with background instruments to see how clearly the vocals can be heard. The intro clean guitars sound really good – easily some of the best I’ve heard and the dirty guitars sound fantastic as well. There’s plenty of grit and body to them, but the drums and cymbals can still be heard. The vocals are excellent and very forward in the soundstage – it truly feels like I’m in the club where these guys are playing. The Ronin are for vocal/mid-instrument lovers for sure. 5/6 points here only because the song can get a bit overwhelming during the busiest parts.
Staind’s “Something to Remind You” has clean electric guitars and wonderful vocals – this song tests the vocal quality and background noise. This type of song is really where the Ronin was meant to excel. The clean instrument and vocals come through so cleanly and beautifully represented that it gives you chills. There’s excellent detail and the fingers on the strings can be heard, but not to an annoying level. The bass guitar also sounds fantastic without overwhelming the mids. Just a top-notch presentation with so much body and an expansive soundstage and good imaging and instrument separation. 7/7 points
To test classical instruments in the mids, I’m using The Piano Guys’ “Code Name Vivaldi.” It really feels like you’re hearing the bow run across the bass strings during the intro and the piano and violins can be heard clearly with excellent separation in the background. I’m actually hearing instruments on here I haven’t heard before. It’s impressive, to say the least. The only downside I really have with the presentation of this song is that it’s missing a little of the sparkle more pronounced highs would give it. That costs the Ronin on the next section, but since this is a mids test song, I won’t double-tap it here. 7/7 points.
To test sibilance on headphones I use Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes. There’s a little sibilance here, which is pretty surprising considering the 3500 Hz dip on the frequency graph. Still, it’s better than most TOTL IEMs which accept more sibilance in exchange for resolving highs. 5/6 points here.
Dream Theater’s “The Alien,” is the highs test song I use to see if the cymbals/high-hats/snare drum can be clearly heard and distinguished from the rest of the music (also good for instrument separation.) I was actually expecting a bit less pronounced highs here than I got based on some of the previous song’s performances. The Ronin actually does really well here with portraying the cymbals and separating them from the mids. It’s impressive but doesn’t match the Mentor’s or FIR VxV’s highs presentation. There’s not quite that level of being able to hear each individual impact of the drumstick on the cymbals, but it’s surprisingly close. It looks like that 5k Hz tuning peak really paid off. 5/7 points here, which is much higher than I was expecting.
Michelle McLaughlin’s “Across The Burren” is another of my favorite highs/sharpness test songs as it can easily sound painful on some headphones. I am going into this song with literally no clue what to think based on the previous songs. There’s a little bit of sharpness here, but it is very minor and only hits on a couple of notes/chords. The overall presentation of the piano is excellent, especially in the lows. 5/7 points here as well since it’s more sharpness than I’ve heard on other TOTL IEMs like the Mentor.
Soundstage/Instrument Separation/Imaging (8/10):
I use MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” to test soundstage, instrument separation, and imaging. The Ronin doesn’t match the Multiverse Mentor in this category, but it is still excellent. The soundstage is large if very forward-leaning and less 3D than the Mentor. Instrument separation is still excellent and imaging is good, if not at the Mentor’s level. 1 point off for both imaging and soundstage, but please remember this is purposeful nitpicking at this price range – the Ronin are still excellent.
I’ve tried to highlight where the Ronin has some strengths and weaknesses compared to the Mentor in the sound comparison above. Both IEMs are fantastic and should easily make whoever picks them up quite happy. I put the Ronin’s bas and mids a touch above the Mentors while the Mentor has a more forward highs presentation with less sharpness and about the same level of sibilance. If you need to hear every cymbal strike, the Mentor is better for that. The Ronin has a more forward mids presentation, and some of the best mids I’ve ever heard, though busier songs can get a little overwhelming at times. The Mentor also beats the Ronin just a bit on soundstage and imaging, which is literally why the Mentor is called the Multiverse Mentor. The Ronin is still top-notch in that category and likely would have gotten full points there if I hadn’t owned the Mentor first.
Now, with regards to packaging and build quality, the Ronin is significantly better. With the Ronin, you get Ronin-specific packaging whereas with the Mentor you get what feels like the same packaging as the MEST Mk2, an IEM that’s $3k less than the Mentor. You also get a much nicer, less microphonic, less stiff, and less tangly cable with the Ronin. The ronin shells themselves feel much more premium and both IEMs are pretty large, so keep that in mind if you have tiny ears. Overall, pick which one you want based on your preferences – I’ve tried to lay out all the plusses and minuses of each.
Yeah, these are great. Admittedly, though they had better be great at this price. They’re $600 less than the Mentor and I can easily say that they make for good competition for the Mentor with a much better packaging experience. If you want an IEM with excellent BA bass, fantastic mids, and surprisingly good highs that aren’t too sharp or sibilant and aren’t too forward, I’m not sure you can do better than the Ronin. Add an excellent cable and great packaging experience to that, and you have one of the best IEMs out there currently. This is my highest-scoring IEM under the v3 scoring system, so that’s pretty cool as well.
|Headphone Scoring (v3):|
|Accessories / Earpads / Eartips (10 pts):||10|
|Cable (10 pts):||10|
|Build Quality/ Design / Comfort (10 pts):||8|
|Lows (20 pts):||19|
|Mids (20 pts):||19|
|Highs (20 pts):||15|
|Soundstage / Instrument Separation / Imaging (10 pts):||8|